The talented Jill S. Alexander, author of the new September release, The Sweetheart of Prosper County, dishes about her new novel, chicken research, writing, and Matthew McConaughey!
Before we jump into the interview, here is a little blurb about Jill from her adorable website!
An interest in novels came late for me in my rural East Texas hometown. With no public library and few books, save one full set of encyclopedias, I learned poetry from church hymnals and storytelling from eccentric relatives. Captivated by country music's story-songs coming across my grandfather's AM radio after the morning farm report, I began writing out the lyrics and creating my own as early as second grade. At age 12, I went to work bussing tables at the local truck stop on weekends and the all-you-can-eat catfish joint at night. With the restaurants located by the interstate, I met colorful folks from all walks of life traveling to places I had only read about in encyclopedias.
Having developed a love for reading fiction in high school, I combined that with my passion for storytelling and focused my college studies on literature and creative writing.
THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY is my debut novel.
I adored The Sweetheart of Prosper County! Read my review here!
On to the interview!
First off, tell us a little bit about your new novel, The Sweetheart of Prosper County.
THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY is a rowdy coming-of-age story about a girl turning fifteen, her rooster, and her unflappable quest to be the sweetheart of the Future Farmers of America.
Are you anything like your main character, personality-wise?
Austin has a feisty personality that is all her own, and she’s not afraid to take
chances. We probably share that fearlessness.
Did your high school have FFA when you were in school? Were you a member? If not, what activities were you involved in?
We did have an FFA program. Both my brother and my father were FFA members. I participated in FHA briefly, but the dance/drill team took up most of my time. We were called the Tiger Dolls – lots of high-kicking in top hats. I’m sure there are pics somewhere.
In the Sweetheart of Prosper County, Austin raises a chicken in her quest to become a Sweetheart – did you have to do chicken research or do you raise chickens?
Most of the chicken specific info in the novel comes from memory. My great uncle raised roosters, and I grew up hearing those stories. My parents’ neighbors raised chickens, so I got some hands on experience there. Regarding research, I prefer talking to people. Whenever I had a chicken question, I’d call my dad or the local FFA/Ag teacher.
Austin tries “noodling” in the novel, have you ever done this?
Goodness! My mother could read this, so the answer is no.
In the beginning of the book, Austin tells a story about how she and her mother came to have signed picture of Matthew McConaughey in their house. My mother is also a big McConaughey fan, so I have to ask: did this aspect of the novel come from a personal daydream or experience? (I had to ask… :)
I LOVE this question! Matthew McConaughey grew up in Longview, Texas not far from where I live. My best friend babysat him. She was around fifteen; he was about ten. She has an autographed picture of the “shirtless wonder” in a silver frame. No one is allowed to touch it.
What was the most difficult aspect of writing The Sweetheart of Prosper County?
The end. It was like saying goodbye to a great group of friends.
Did you always want to be a writer?
I was a little country girl with no public library and very few books at home. Being a writer never occurred to me. However, I had music and a wonderful, eccentric family full of entertaining storytellers. I always wanted the stories -- hear them, sing them, tell them, write them.
What jobs did you have on your way to being a writer? Did they help you in any way as a writer?
My work experience has made me the writer I am today. While other kids were connecting with characters in books, I was connecting with real life characters. When I was twelve, I bussed tables at a truck stop. I met colorful folks from all walks of life. In high school, I worked in a hardware store similar to Gray’s True Value in the novel. After college, I taught English until the pull to pen my own stories became irresistible.
When and where do you usually write?
I write at home, starting in the early morning and writing until I pick my son up from school. I’m impressed with writers who can work in coffee shops. I like the quiet.
Is there something that is a must have for you to be able to write?
Coke Zero and quiet.
What author or book most influenced you as a writer or in general?
When I read Flannery O’Connor’s short story Good Country People, I just about lost my mind – in a good way. I loved the rural, southern voice and it was so smart, perfectly put together. I became a student of the Southern Gothics – Eudora Welty, Truman Capote, Harper Lee, Tennessee Williams.
What are currently reading?
I recently finished Julie Halpern’s INTO THE WILD NERD YONDER. Loved it! An original voice and it’s laugh-out-loud funny.
What book are you anxiously awaiting?
Watch for Kristin Tubb’s next historical fiction novel SELLING HOPE. I’ve read a small portion. Let me tell you, it’s going to be out of this world!
Can you tell us anything about your next novel?
Feiwel & Friends acquired my second novel PARADISE AND HIS SMOKIN’ SQUEEZEBOX. I’m hoping to have it ready for the Fall 2010 list. Get a fan. This one’s hot.
The Hiding Spot is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Is there a place, activity, or person that is your hiding spot?
Muscle car, fifth gear, Highway 67
Anything else you would like to share with us?
God Bless Robert Earl Keen.
Who I is Robert Earl Keen you ask? Well, don't worry I have a handy dandy YouTube video of the one and only performing a song on Austin City Limits, one of my favorite shows! :)
I'd like to thank Jill for taking the time to answer these questions! And I totally called my mom and told her all about close encounters with Matthew McConaughey! :) Go out and get this book - it is a wonderfully fun story!